Lightning Over Wrigley: The Atmosphere Was Electric

I am one of the least superstitious people you will ever meet. But I think I'll avoid going to the ballpark on Friday the 13th ever again, thank you very much.

Wrigley Field lightning I July 13 2012

Yes, it was that kind of day at Wrigley Field. We have been parched in Chicago all year long, so there didn't seem any particular reason to take the forecast of a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms too seriously. But the skies over Wrigleyville looked a little ominous as I headed west on Addison from the lakeshore, and sure enough, when I entered the park just before the scheduled game time of 1:20 p.m., the grounds crew was prepared to cover the infield with the tarp, even though it had not yet begun to rain.

The good news was that this act of foresight ultimately enabled the game to be played. The bad news is that it allowed the game to be played after an obscene delay of three hours and 40 minutes -- about an hour longer than the length of the actual game -- during which thousands of fans were subjected to a downpour of monsoon proportions, accompanied by a light and sound show. There was more vivid lightning...

and then the rain, harder than anything Chicago has seen all year, kicked in. It was bad...

Wrigley Field downpour I July 13 2012

... then it got worse...

Wrigley Field downpour II July 13 2012

... then it turned Wrigley Field into a water park.

Wrigley Field downpour III July 13 2012

In case we'd forgotten after months of drought, this is what is known as a "puddle."

Wrigley Field downpour puddle July 13 2012

I have written about how much I have loved Wrigley Field since I first started going to games there 30 years ago. But the nearly 100-year-old stadium has its shortcomings, one of which is that finding cover during a tropical storm is a relative matter. Sitting in the upper reaches of the upper deck, I was fine at first... until the wind shifted. The back of the upper deck is open iron mesh, which provides lovely city views for the folks sitting in the last row, but also lets the rain in real good. So we got hosed from behind.

One renovation they apparently did well over the years at Wrigley was to install a very effective drainage system. So that lake in the left field corner and others around the field were reduced fairly quickly (also relatively speaking) and the game started at 5 p.m., after one of the longest rain delays at the start of a game in major league baseball history.

So, I got to experience one of my biggest sports pet peeves. I don't mean to be curmudgeonly, but I'm old enough to remember when a deluge like the one that hit Wrigley Friday afternoon would have prompted a postponement and a nice 2-games-for-one-price doubleheader the next day.But for a number of years now, the economics of modern-day baseball have mandated that the teams never sacrifice a game's worth of gate receipts if there is any possibility of playing -- even if it means that all the folks who paid a chunk of their hard-earned money for their ticket have to get drenched and threatened by lightning, then mill around for a couple more hours while the grounds crew drains and sops up a few million gallons of water off the field.

Major League Baseball, where fans always come last.

The kicker is that I ended up only watching three innings of the game. I did get to see outfielder Alfonso Soriano,here leading off second base after a second-inning double, start one of the best games of his tenure with the Cubs that would also include a solo home run, a three-run homer and another double.

Cubs' Alfonso Soriano leads off 2nd July 13 2012

And I got my first look at 22-year-old first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a top prospect who is widely regarded as a key to the team's hopefully brighter future. Although Rizzo was 0-for-2 while I was there -- here a mighty swing produced a foul ball at his feet -- he later chipped in with two singles to raise his batting average to .365 (with four homers and nine runs batted in) over his first 13 games since being called up from the minors. Not counting my chickens, since we are talking about the Cubs, but that is a smart start indeed.

Cubs' rookie Anthony Rizzo batting July 13 2012

But during the 3rd inning, it started to rain again, and the weather radar showed big red blotches to the west that threatened a repeat of the earlier storm. So I joined a few thousand other folks who'd had enough, and I caught the bus home. I got to watch on TV as the Cubs built an 8-1 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks -- their 10th win in their past 14 games after a horrendous start to the season.

And then the storms broke up, as most of them have this year. And the sun came out.

Definitely the most Friday the 13th of any Friday the 13th I can remember.

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